Blue Horizon 2
Thursday 4/8/11 - Resume voyage. After an eight week break we are finally off again. We had flown back home to sort out some family matters and I went on a 2 week fishing trip to Fraser Island that was a bit of a disaster, but that’s another story. Army exercises were held during the whole month of July so all the anchorages in the Shoalwater Bay had been closed to yachts and we were forced to wait. I did manage a couple of short cruises around the Keppel’s with friends and rellies while waiting.
We wanted to head north but the forecast said the wind would pick up so we left Roslyn Bay about 7.30 and headed straight for North Keppel, anchored in Considine Bay and waited till wind and seas settled down. Shirley caught a sucker fish and some sort of marine grub but nothing worth eating. It blew just over 20kts SE all night with light showers.
Friday 5/8/11 – After breakfast we went ashore. The girls went looking for shells while I checked out the creek for marine life. We strolled over to Mazy Bay and were rewarded with spotting marine life. We saw a dugon, a stingray, a turtle, and a small black tipped reef shark all cruising lazily along the shallow shore. We picked over the floatsome on the beach but found nothing of value. I found a ripe coconut up near the house in the centre of the beach which we had as an appetiser for lunch. The tracks on the Island are well maintained as Education Queensland bought the old hut resort and now operates environmental camps for high school students. We had a lazy afternoon on the boat and waited for the wind to die down.
Saturday 6/8/11 – The wind dropped overnight. Forecast 10-15kts SE. We left North Keppel expecting to have 15kts all the way to Pearl Bay but except for a half hour of good sailing, the breeze dropped to about 8-10kts SE which was frustrating as sea was still unsettled from 2 days of heavier wind and kept joggling the wind out of the sails. We did the 40nm trip in 8.5 hours to reach Pearl Bay then went ashore to explore. You can only explore the beach as this is in the military training area but the bay and surrounding islands are quite picturesque. Shirley caught about 20 small bait fish during the afternoon and evening which we kept for crab pot bait. It was a nice calm anchorage.
Sunday 7/8/11 – After breakfast we up anchored and tried to go fishing near the rocks around the islands but the currents kept pushing us towards rocks and Avon got nervous and convinced me to give it up. We headed off in light winds but the sea and swells had come down overnight to leave calm conditions. I made two attempts to sail but in the end pulled everything down and motored on one engine. Off Island Head creek the wind picked up a little to 5-8kts SW so I rehoisted the main and motor sailed then played around putting up a spinnaker I had brought along off my trailer sailor. I amused myself for a couple of hours and it flew quite well but was too small to provide much push. It may be of some use if I can use it on a broard reach with a main, genoa, spinnaker combination. We turned the engine off and sailed the last hour to Supply Bay but we had a 3kt tail current and only 2kt push from the sails.
We saw our first humpback whale for the trip as we lowered sail and motored into Supply Bay on Townshend Island to drop anchor and go ashore. We walked the beach and had a swim then packed up and motored past Canoe Passage and along the coast of Leicester Island to the mouth of “Big Buck Creek”. After anchoring for the night and put out the crab pots with the dinghy “Little Bluey”. The wind then changed from S to NW for the night which put us on a lee shore but it stayed light all night. We hooked 4 small gummy sharks but only landed 2 which we had no use for so through back. We had a calm night.
Monday 8/8/11 – Shirley and I went to pick up the crab pots first thing after breakfast but should have gone sooner. We caught 6 big bucks but had lots of trouble getting up the creek and over the rock bars as the tide was running out fast. I had to walk in the mud for 2 pots and we ran aground and had to walk the boat through the shallows in places. To top it all off the motor started playing up and it conked out twice on the trip back to the boat. I think the carby is flooding as it goes again if I turn of the fuel off and pull the chord about 20 times. I tied the crabs and stowed the pots and got all shipshape then headed off to Hunter Island.
We motored on one engine all the way into a 5kt headwind. We troll the lure whenever allowed but except for the one mackerel in Hervey Bay we haven’t got much to show. We had 2 anchorages to choose from at Hunter Island and of course we chose the wrong one as the wind shifted and strengthened during the night and though safe we spent a not so comfortable night and did not have a sound sleep. I caught a nice rock cod and we cooked 2 crabs for dinner.
Tuesday 9/8/11 – We pulled the anchor up after a light breakfast and headed to a sheltered bay on Marble Island for a day of R&R and to catch up on some sleep. Avon and I then went for a snorkel and tried out our new wetsuits but the water was not very clear so we swam into the beach and went for a walk instead. We cooked another 2 crabs and had a good night’s sleep. Once again the wind swang back to NW and we were on a lee shore but it only blew 5kts all night. Perfect weather.
Wednesday 10/8/11 – We left Marble Island at 8.00 and close hauled into a light NW. We started off doing 4.5kts but the wind picked up gradually over 3 hours and we were doing 8kts just before we reached Dolphin Bay on Middle Percy Island. I wanted to go to West Bay and show Avon & Shirley the “A Frame” and other structured but it is now too rough on that side of the island. We will definitely go there before we leave the Island as I intend to hang our plaque alongside all the others left there over the years.
I caught a 3kg trevally early in the afternoon but let it go. We then went ashore for a look. There was a moderate surf roll on the beach and the crew of “Ultimate Positioning” helped us launch the dinghy through the surf on the return trip. As they were going back to their own boat we hailed them over and gave them a mud crab to thank them for the help and also because we couldn’t eat them fast enough and thought they might die if not cooked soon. It is pleasant anchorage even though the wind has been blowing 15-20kts all afternoon and night.
Thursday 11/8/11 – Another windy day. It has been blowing 20-25kts N-NW all day and expected to swing W then SW during the night then weaken and swing S-SE tomorrow. I cleaned the spark plug of the dinghy o/b motor and Shirley & I went fishing in the dinghy to give it a good run. I played up at first but is running better now. I will have to keep an eye on it. We are still holed up in Dolphin Bay and waiting for the weather to moderate. I is now time to go and cook the last crab.
Friday 12/8/11 - The wind swung around as expected during the night so we left at first light and moved to the shelter of Blunt Bay on North East Island and had a lazy day. Shirley and I caught about 6 fish and we decided to stay there for the night.
Saturday 13/8/11 – We were up early as we planned to get to Mackay in 2 days. There was hardly any wind so we motored around to West bay on Middle Percy Island and finally went ashore to show the girls the “A Frame” and hang our plaque. Middle Percy has a long tradition of Australian pioneering and has always welcomed visiting yachts. Passing yachts usually leave a momento to record their passing. It has a well sheltered harbour that dries at low tide and was originally discovered by Mathew Flinders. We had a talk to Ian, the caretaker, bought some honey and checked out the book exchange. We then explored the “Treehouse” and did a short cruise into the harbour on the way back to the boat. I would have liked to stay a couple of days but wanted to reach Mackay in the expected fine weather. We had about 8kts SE all the way to Digby Island and the angle was just right to set the main, genoa, and small spinnaker. All sailed well and we moved along at just under 5kts. We anchored for the night with 4 other yachts and Avon & I went ashore but there was not much of interest. It was another calm night.
Sunday 14/8/11 – We got up early as we had 43nm to go on our last leg to Mackay. There were rain clouds to seaward and within an hour we had 100% cloud cover with occasional showers. At first the wind was about 5kts and we decided to motor sail to maintain a speed of at least 5kts. Everything went well for the first 4 hours to Prudhoe Island then the wind picked up to 15 then 20kts. The autopilot then got overpowered by the following seas. I pulled down the main and hand steered the rest of the way using head sail and motor. We reached Mackay harbour in just under 7 hours with the last half hour blowing 20-25kts. Avon gets nervous as soon as we have 20kts so we were all glad to get safely into the harbour. We checked out all the facilities around the marina then rang a couple of friends to let them know we were in town. After a cleanup and a catnap we went to the yacht club for dinner with Carmel & John swapped stories about the last couple of years. We then went early to bed to catch up on some sleep.
Monday 15/8/11 – I started the day by filling the fuel and water tanks while Shirley did the laundry. Anne & John came to visit about 10am then after a cup of tea Anne drove us into Mackay to do our shopping to resupply the boat. That afternoon I took the cover off the autopilot, aired it in the sun to get the moisture out of it, and stuck clear contact over the joins to seal the unit as much as possible. I then went for a cruise around the marina in the dinghy to check out all the boats then got everything shipshape for leaving next morning.
Tuesday 16/8/11 – We left the marina about 9am and headed for Brampton Island. The wind was a light southerly so we motor sailed for about 2 hours then turned the motor off when the wind picked up to about 10-12kts. As we approached the island we noticed a group of sea kayaks with small sails following us. This group made camp on the beach on Carlisle Island while we anchored off the jetty about 1pm then read books and lazed around for the afternoon.
Wednesday 17/8/11 – Shirley and I went fishing in the dinghy early after breakfast but had no luck so we went back to the boat, got Avon, then went ashore for most of the day to hike around the walking tracks on the island. We all enjoyed the walk and explored the beaches along the way. Most of the time we were in shady trees and the views were great. We also saw packs of black tipped reef sharks about a metre long cruising in the shallows along the beach. We went for a swim near the resort to cool off. Brampton Island Resort has recently closed which is a shame. It still looks quite well kept from a distance and it has a caretaker. We felt we had the whole island to ourselves and were glad not to be bothered by tourists but it is sad to see the resort facilities going to waste.
Thursday 18/8/11 – We left soon after breakfast and headed north to Thomas Island trolling all the way. The wind was about 12kts NW and we were almost close hauled but we moved along at about 5kts and had a nice easy sail. The wind dropped to virtually nothing for the last half hour of the trip so we anchored on the SE side of the island in a picturesque bay and went ashore to explore and swim. I also found a well made bailer among the flotsome which I kept. Later in the afternoon we shifted to the SE anchorage of the island as the wind was expected to swing SE during the night and pick up. We went ashore again and the girls found shells and made a new friend, Phillipa who was shell hunting as well.
Friday 19/8/11 – The wind blew 20-25kts SW/SE all day so we stayed put. Phillipa rowed over with some books to swap and the girls showed her their bead collection. About midmorning the fleet of sea kayaks turned up again. One said they had had a pretty rough trip and were glad to arrive. Later I dropped Avon & Shirley ashore to look for more shells and I went over to Phillipa’s boat to meet her partner Hank. Hank and Phillipa have sailed the coast many times and I had a good chat for an hour or so then went back and picked up the girls. Hank and Phillipa left for Newry Island soon after but I don’t envy them as it was blowing 25kts.
About 2pm Shirley’s line started screaming and I helped her pull in a big cod. It was a goldspotted estuary cod about 75cm long and about 9kg. A grinner had hooked itself on her bait then the cod went for the grinner. The girls had stacked the freezer full of meat and there wasn’t much room so I kept one fillet the then took the other fillet over to the beach where the kayakers were camped. They were happy to get fresh fish as most of their food was dehydrated rations though they had caught a travelly or two. I found out they had started their trip from Mackay and sail/paddled to Carlisle, Goldsmith, & Thomas Islands and planned to end up at Shute Harbour in about a week’s time. They had one kayak roll over that morning and the person had to right the kayak, get back in it, then pump it out with a hand pump they carry just for that purpose. I was surprised to find they were not a young group as expected. Most looked to be in their 50’s.
There were 5 boats in the anchorage and one of them “Phase 2” invited every boat to “sundowners on the beach“ at 4.30pm so we all rocked up and everyone swapped stories, weather reports and told of their travels. Everyone had a good time and it was great to have someone new to talk to. We went back to the boat at dusk and had dinner.
The sea was boiling with hundreds of garfish around the boat that panicked whenever you shined a light on them. One ever jumped onto the transom step under Shirley’s feet so I put a hook in it and sent it back as live bait. 5 minutes later blow me down if Shirley didn’t hook another big cod on her line. This one was 90cm long and about 12kg. When I was filleting the fish I discovered a shark hook 14cm long by 5cm wide with ¾ metre of 50kg nylon leader trace plus a 6/0 hook complete with a pea sinker, swivel and trace and fairly large piece of “T” shaped stick that must have been giving him a guts ache. I had a devil of a job evicting stuff out of the fridge so I could find room for the fish and next morning I went around the boats in the anchorage giving cod fillet away. All fishing is now banned till further notice.
Saturday 20/8/11 – We moved off after breakfast for the short hop to Lindeman Island where we anchored in Gap Bay on the NE side. It was the first day of the Hamilton Island race week and we could see the yachts in the distance. We hiked up to the lookout on Lindeman Island through shady trees and were surprised to find that the yacht race was around our island and we had the best seats in town with a bird’s eye view of 160+ boats as they sailed past and popped their spinnakers at the windward mark. “Stoked” with Fred & Maureen on board who we had just met the previous day also anchored in the bay and we ran into them again on the track. We returned to the boat and had a lazy afternoon.
Sunday 21/8/11 – The weather is suppose to get nasty by this afternoon so we are heading for a sheltered inlet I know of at Whitsunday Island but stop at Hamilton Island for 2 hours to catch up on civilization and some shopping therapy for the girls. The island certainly has a lot of development and we walked over to the marina then had lunch before going back to the boat. It was then just a half hour trip in sheltered water to Gulnare Inlet where we dropped anchor to sit out the windy weather. As soon as we arrived I put out the crabpots but despite the extensive mangrove system no crabs live here. I did find a good wire crab pot caught under some mangroves but decided to leave it there as it would probably scratch the paint on the boat. The Whitsunday’s has changed a lot since I used this anchorage 25 years ago. Last time there was only one other boat here, now there are 20 boats in sight and half of them are catamarans.
Monday 22/8/11 – The wind is 20-30kts SW/SE. We just sat around reading all day. The anchorage is quite sheltered and comfortable but not much to do. It is a picturesque inlet but there are no beaches and it is too windy to go fishing in the dinghy. Some boats come and go but most stay put waiting for better weather. We had internet coverage so I typed up last week’s adventures and emailed them out. The weather forecast is for more wind and now rain as well. Welcome to the Whitsundays.
Tuesday 23/8/11 – The wind is 20-30kts again. I tried to talk the girls into moving abound to Cid Harbour but Avon conjured up images of howling winds and 3 metre waves breaking over the boat and refused to budge. I was by now getting board so finally got around to reading the instructions on how to use my new digital camera. I also learnt to load the pictures onto the computer and email them so you should get some photos shortly. (P.S. emailing photos used up all our download dollars and it took 2 days to work out why the internet wouldn’t work anymore.)
Wednesday 24/8/11 – The wind is still 20-30kts. Shirley & I over-ruled Avon’s objections and we left the inlet after breakfast and motored the 4nm around to Cid Harbour. It was semi-sheltered water so the sea wasn’t too bad which was what I expected. Cid harbour is a large natural harbour on the western side of Whitsunday Island and is the most central anchorage for yachts.
We dropped anchor among the 40 or so boats that were already there. There was plenty of activity with boats coming and going through the day and it was a pleasant change to the mangrove creek we came from. We could also go ashore and explore the 2 beaches with camp sites and toilets. The place is crowded with yachties so we had a chat with several groups. We also went for a bushwalk to the next beach and meet another group of kayakers camped there. I caught a 6kg trevally about 2pm then later Shirley caught about 8 small fish. We kept 2 for bait and I made her throw back the rest. About 10pm I caught an 8kg catfish then put my fishing rod away in disgust. It blew 25-30kts all night.
Thursday 25/8/11 – Still blowing with some light rain. We had hoped to climb Whitsunday Peak today but the weather is lousy. Trapped inside the boat again so decided to type this log. Shirley just caught some kind of crab similar in appearance to a sand crab but mainly green in colour. With nothing better to go I have just put down a crab pot as we now suspect crabs were pinching the bait at times yesterday. Hope the weather improves soon, all the way to the Whitsundays to sit in wind and rain for 5 days and we really have to start heading back south soon.
Friday 26/8/11 – The wind is 10-15kts S/SE but still lots of cloud so we decide to head south. We had fairly sheltered waters to the bottom of Hamilton Island and the seas were ok for about an hour after that but at about 11.00 the wind went to 20kts and stayed there for the rest of the day. We motored almost into it for an hour to get to the bottom of Shaw Island then changed course and I put the staysail up for the last run to the anchorage at Thomas Island. Avon still gets nervousin the rougher weather. We went shell hunting on the beach after lunch and then set the fishing lines in the hope of catching another rock cod but no luck.
Saturday 27/8/11 – Still lots of cloud but hardly any rain or wind so we decide to motor south again while the weather is calm. The sea went to glass so we bypassed the anchorages at Goldsmith & Brampton Islands and ended up at Mackay Marina. We saw 3 whales and a pod of dolphins on the way. The girls are now quite good at preparing mooring lines and fenders now and we can dock without too many dramas. After doing the chores, garbage, washing, refilling tanks and cleaning etc., we ran into Philippa and Hank again then later went out to dinner. The weather appeared to be clearing when we went to bed.
Sunday 28/8/11 – The next day started with heavy fog, real pea sour stuff, and lasted till after late morning. Hank left the marina with the intention of sailing up the Pioneer River and finding a float but had to return to the marina due to poor visibility. Meanwhile Anne took us shopping for supplies and Phillipa shouted us coffee at the coffee club.
That afternoon we all ended up back at our boat for coffee and cake and while chatting Hank suddenly said he had to go as he could see Alan Lucas was over at his boat looking for him. Alan is probably the first cruising yachty to sail the Queensland coast. He has written the ‘must have’ guide books “Cruising the Coral Coast”, “Cruising the NSW Coast”, and many others sailing books I have read over the years. I went over and Hank introduced me and Shirley got in on the act and insisted on lining the three of us up and taking a photograph. I was glad to finally meet Alan in person and he and Hank obviously had a lot in common. After dinner I rang friends backhome to plan a reef trip out of the town of 1770 and prepared the boat for an early start.
Monday 29/8/11 – We left the Mackay marina at 7.00 and headed for Curlew Island 42nm away. I put the sails up but could only sail slowly and 20 degrees off course so pulled them down and motored into about 8-12kts. Both girls went to their bunks to read and I noticed the boat started pitching and slowing down so I experimented with some advice Hank gave me on the importance of keeping weight in the middle of the boat. I pulled out the spare water and fuel tanks from the front deck locker and made both girls read in the lounge area. The pitching reduced markedly and the boat picked up .3 of a knot which adds up over time. We had the wind and current against us most of the day and it ended up being a 9 hour trip.
We went ashore as soon as we dropped anchor. The girls hoped for find shells but it was pretty lean pickings. Avon found a rusty anchor at the low tide mark but it was too far gone to salvage. We met the crew of “School’s Out”, a couple of retired teachers, and had a chat. After dinner that night we put on the fluro light at the back of the boat and attracted a school of garfish. I had 3 or 4 casts with the net and caught about 20 of them for bait.
Tuesday 30/8/11 – The day started at 3 in the morning with a crackling thunder storm. There were 6 other boats in the anchorage and all seemed to have their lights on and the crews keeping a careful watch as the storm bounced us all around as it ran its course. Even after the storm it still blew 20-25kts all day so we stayed put. All the other boats left as they were heading north and had the wind behind them.
The boat was by now saturated inside with humidity and the girls were both having trouble lighting the gas stove and claimed we had run out of gas. After continuous complaints I checked everything and, after finding nothing, pronounced the thing fixed and threatened to throw the next winger overboard.
We filled in the day fishing. I caught 3 trevally and a suckerfish and threw all back while Shirley caught a nice school mackerel which we ate. We had rain again that night and it blew 20kts all night.
Wednesday 31/8/11 – It is still blowing but the anchorage is comfortable. After so many overcast days the batteries were low so I fired up the generator and charger. Of course the sun then put in an appearance and although it was still ¾ cloud cover it was the first decent sunny day since Whitsunday Island 10 days ago. After brecky we went ashore to explore. Avon and Shirley bought more junk back to the boat to lower the waterline and I caught some hardyhead for bait with the cast net.
As soon as we got back to the boat I noticed that the wind had dropped to almost nothing and was coming from all variable directions so I decided it was a good time to head off to the next Island during the lull. We no sooner stuck our head out from behind the headland and the wind decided to blow again. It was only about 10-15kts on the nose but the seas had not had a chance to settle down. We were doing less than 4.5kts under one motor, would arrive after dark, there were clouds on the horizon where we were going, Avon was getting agitated, and I could not be bothered taking the risk. In the end we turned around after half an hour and returned to Curlew Island.
I need to give more thought to being able to sail to the next Island and not rely on the motors. On the positive side there is now full sunshine and it has turned into a nice day. It is time to plan the next assault over a tinny or two.
Thursday 1/9/11 – There were light winds early morning so we headed off again after breakfast. Once again the wind increased to 15kts on the nose and we chickened out and returned to anchor feeling a bit down.
Early afternoon Hank and Phillippa arrived on ‘South Wester’ and rowed past us on their way to the beach so we invited them back for dinner. The girls got chatting and Hank and I went over to his boat to listen to the weather report on his HF radio and talk boats in general. He also advised me that we should have been able to sail to windward on both previous days and would have to learn if we were ever to get back to Brisbane. Shirley also caught a giant herring to finish off the night.
Friday 2/9/11 – An important day for the captain and crew of Blue Horizon, sailing to windward 801. Hank and Phillippa headed of early after trying to encourage us to follow them to Percy Island. We initially planned to stay put as the forecast was 15-20kts. After more discussion Avon and I decided to ‘have a go’ even though she was not all that keen. We left half an hour after and almost caught them up after about an hour, then we made a tactical error of staying on the wrong tack for too long and they left us for dead. The wind was 15kts for most of the way but reached 20kts for the last 2 hours to make it a 7 hour trip.
We anchored at Middle Percy Island three quarters of an hour after Hank and Phillippa feeling relieved to get there but also very chuffed with ourselves. We may make gun-ho sailors yet. We pounded a bit in the 20kt stuff but the boat went well and the crew now has confidence in sailing to windward in 20kts. I put out 2 crab pots then we had a rest for the rest of the afternoon to allow nervous tension and egos to come back to normal.
Saturday 3/9/11 – We went ashore for most of the day to explore the island again as we had only stopped here for an hour on the way north due to poor weather. You can literally spend hours in the ‘A Frame’ just looking at all the yachting memorabilia and artwork left by passing yachts over the years. The girls collected some shells while I walked up the creek at low tide to check the grab pots.
Hank and Phillippa also came ashore and we all walked up the hill to the homestead to say hello. It has always been a yachty friendly island and we were invited in for morning tea. Kate and John have just had their lease of part of the island renewed for 20 years after much controversy to the great relief of all. We were shown around and discussed the various projects and improvements underway. After getting the latest weather update off their computer we went on our way down another track back to the beach where we had a swim before returning to the boat. It blew 20-25kts most of the day but the anchorage is good especially for a cat.
Sunday 4/9/11 – Another windy day. We spent the morning ashore again and we fished the creek on the incoming tide. I had to throw back 3 undersize parrot and kept a cod just big enough for dinner that night. I dehusked 3 coconuts and did a little work cleaning up around the A Frame and digging out prickly pear which are 2 jobs encouraged by the owners to help keep the place tidy, then went back to the boat for the afternoon.
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